ATLANTA: Billionaire Tony Ressler’s purchase of the Atlanta Hawks has been unanimously approved by NBA owners, the league announced on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), concluding a sale forced by racial remarks in e-mails discovered last year.
The sale comes after a 2012 e-mail written by former co-owner Bruce Levenson, which said in part black fans were scaring away white supporters, was uncovered last year in a probe following comments by former general manager Danny Ferry, who resigned on Monday.
Ferry made derogatory racial remarks about British NBA star Luol Deng, reading them off a scouting report on a conference call.
That came in the wake of Donald Sterling’s forced ouster as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers over racial insults, leading to a bid process in which Ressler tried to purchase the Clippers but lost out to Steve Ballmer’s $2 billion bid.
Ressler’s group reportedly paid $850 million for the Hawks, who reached the Eastern Conference final before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Atlanta had the best record in the East during the regular season with a club-record 60 wins.
The new ownership group, whose sale deal was preliminarily reached in April, also includes seven-time NBA All-Star player Grant Hill.
“We are pleased that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved the purchase of the Atlanta Hawks by principal owner Tony Ress¬ler,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.
“Tony and his diverse and experienced ownership group will bring tremendous energy and passion to the Hawks and the team and its fans will greatly benefit from their commitment to the Atlanta community.”
Hawks’ attendance jumped 21 percent this past season, a good sign for the new owners, who also bought operating rights to the team’s home arena.
“We are honored and thrilled to have been chosen to become the new stewards of the Hawks,” Ressler said in April when terms were agreed upon.